Matt Jordan the key to Montreal Impact's success
Where would the Montreal Impact be if not for the heroic efforts of Matt Jordan?
It's hard to say exactly, but chances are they wouldn't be on the cusp of advancing to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
By virtue of a shocking 2-0 win over Santos Laguna last week before 55,571 fans at Olympic Stadium, the Impact can clinch a spot in the final four of the tournament by earning a tie in the second leg of the quarter-final series Thursday in Mexico (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
Jordan, 33, was spectacular in the first leg against Santos, making a handful of highlight-reel saves — including one from close range on Ecuadorian striker Christian Benitez — to help propel the Impact to victory.
All in a day's work
It was all in a day's work for the Colorado native who has a habit of making the extraordinary look routine, dumbfounding opponents with his sheer athleticism and penchant for making acrobatic saves.
Jordan's outstanding string of performances between the posts is a major reason why the Impact have made it this far in the CONCACAF tournament, when most critics believed they would crash out if the first round.
But Jordan downplays the prominent role he's played in the team's success, insisting he's benefited from playing behind a veteran back line.
"I look at myself as one piece of the puzzle on our team," Jordan told CBCSports.ca.
"What's really good for us is that we have a core of guys in defence that are very used to playing with each other on a consistent basis. They've been doing that for quite a while now — they're very familiar with each other, and that makes my job easier."
Modesty aside, there's no denying Jordan's influence on the Impact has been immense.
It was his stellar play in last summer's Canadian club championship (where he was named tournament MVP) that allowed Montreal to beat out Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps and win the competition, earning a Champions League berth in the process.
Jordan continued his sensational form in the first round of the CONCACAF competition, earning rave reviews from teammates and opponents alike. After a 2-0 loss to the Impact on Sept. 17, Joe Public FC coach Keith Griffith boasted that "the next time we meet the Impact at home, we'll beat them by four goals clear, for sure," before adding that Jordan "can't be that brilliant again."
Griffith was wrong — Jordan was brilliant in a 4-1 win over Joe Public a month later in Trinidad.
Back home, Jordan and the Impact overcame a disastrous start to their domestic campaign to make it to the semifinals of the 2008 United States Soccer League First Division playoffs.
Turned down MLS offers
Jordan's MVP-like form for the Impact didn't go unnoticed — several Major League Soccer teams came knocking on the Impact's door after the season was over with offers to buy the talented shot stopper.
Jordan seriously contemplated a move back to MLS, where he played more than 100 games in the league with three different teams from 1998 to 2006, but instead chose to re-sign with the Impact.
"I really feel good about this city and the Montreal Impact," Jordan said. "My family has enjoyed their time up here, and what I really like about Montreal is the idea of building something from the ground up and that's a challenge that's very appealing to me and was one of the factors why I decided to come back."
Montreal competes in the USL-1, American soccer's second division, but has designs on joining the top-tier MLS. The city was one of the front-runners to land a MLS expansion franchise, but Impact owner Joey Saputo pulled his bid from the table last November because the price wasn't right, balking at the $40-million US expansion fee demanded by the league.
It was after he learned that the Impact would remain in the USL-1 that Jordan re-signed with the Impact, which made his decision to stay all the more intriguing. He has no regrets about leaving for MLS when the chance presented itself, and is confident he'll be playing in the league again as a member of the Impact.
"I think we were all a bit surprised with how that entire situation unfolded. But at the same time we feel very good about the organization and the direction we're moving in," Jordan said.
Indeed, Saputo and general manager Nick De Santis have fostered a strong sense of community and family at the club, and that's been the key behind the Impact's success on the field, according to Jordan.
"Most clubs experience a lot of player turnover each year. I've been a part of teams that have done that I never felt that was a good organizational philosophy. It's not like that in Montreal, and that's been the strength of the Impact - it's like a family," Jordan said.
"We don't look at ourselves as a big glamorous club. We look at ourselves as a hardworking club that is willing to pay the price for success."